Friday, October 30, 2015

walking the bridge


Our Aunt Cathie posted this on my fb page and I loved it so.  Many days I feel as though I have solid ground beneath my feet.  But then the wind gusts, and I sway, and the air clouds in fogginess and I can't see whats up ahead of me.  So the only thing I can do is keep moving forward, praying all the hope laid at my feet creates the bridge that sways along with me, leading me to all of my tomorrows. 


We're still trying to put our feet squarely on the ground after our trip.  We loved hearing from so many who celebrated the sheer delight and surprise of the trip, right along with us.  

Imagine my great surprise and complete honor to have this photo texted to me a couple of days after we arrived home.  


"It's Hockey Fights Cancer Night and the Cullen family fights for Vicky Westra!"



I loved watching all kinds of new people showing up to like the  Cullen Children's Foundation FB page!  


Tuesday, it was my turn to dive back into cancer world.  Dr. Panwalkar was away from the hospital for a couple of weeks, and so I had the pleasure of seeing Erin, a PA who works with him.  I have been feeling well, and had an element of dread sitting with me, when I thought about having to do Taxotere again.  But Dr. Panwalkar hadn't fully decided on whether or not I should go back to Taxotere, or start a different drug, called Taxol.

Since Dr. Panwalkar was coming back, on Wednesday, the day of my infusion, Erin left him a note, so he could decide.


In the meantime, I had my port accessed and then blood work drawn.  I went home with the needle left in my port, so that it was ready for infusion the next day.  Its not very comfortable, but neither is trying to have the lab techs poke me 5 different times to access my tiny, rolling, veins.  





So the next day I arrived, wondering what lay in wait for me.

And it turns out, it was freshly written orders from Dr. Panwalkar, for Taxol.  Its eye-opening to me, that sometimes the smallest change, can set off the biggest chain of reactions.  Oh my, I was not prepared for what was to come. 





First I had to sign consent for treatment again.  The language used in the form is filled with words I simply don't want to embrace... and yet, its the only way for me to move forward.  I feel the bridge sway, as I sign my name and date it.  

But then my friend, Karla shows up to sit with me.  And she helps me stay in this moment, and that is always pure gift.  And when she has to go?  My friend Barb comes and rains grace over me through her loving ways.  She's been an angel to our family and having her here with me, steels my resolve.  

Its almost time for me to start my new drug.  And what should appear around the corner of the curtain?  A hand, waving, capturing my attention... and then the white sleeve, and then the big smile- and there is Dr. Panwalkar, exclaiming "And how was the jet?" (referring to our trip he must have heard about.)

He looks so refreshed, and is in a jovial mood.  He sits in the chair next to me, and says he has come to talk about the Taxol with me.  He really likes this drug, the drawback is that you take it weekly.  But if you tolerate it,  its a good drug.  I'm a little spacey from all the Benadryl I've had along with the steroids.  I feel like I'm a jittery mess, with a layer of grogginess on top.  

As Dr. Panwalkar finishes talking, and gets up to go, he leans over and squeezes me, with a big smile telling me how nice it is to see me with all the puffiness gone from my face.  But this won't be the last time I see him, today.  

My nurse has brought me side effect information on Taxol.  Its the one little part about a possible hypersensitivity reaction, that causes the dread to rise within me again.  It happens within the first 10 minutes of the infusion, typically, if its going to happen.  And it involves, hives, rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, etc., all that comes with an allergic reaction.

But my nurse assures me she will watch carefully, and have all the meds ready she needs to administer should anything happen to me.

So, onward we go.  She hooks up the bag, and slowly it starts to drip.  Rick comes back and sits with me, and we sit quietly, while the minutes trot past us steadily.  Soon we're past the 10 minute mark and all is well.

It isn't until we get near the 50 minute mark, that the first tingle comes to my lips.  I find myself smacking them, as they tingle in a numbing sort of way.  Its then that my nurse happens to be coming into the room, and I tell her right away, "my lips just started tingling."

And then everything speeds up, in a slow motion kind of way.  She quickly gathers her meds, and pages for the nurse practitioner to come.  The drip is stopped.  I'm quickly given a dose of Benadryl, as they listen to my breathing.  Nurses come from all directions. "No hoarseness noted in her voice."  I acknowledge that my throat is fine, my tongue tingles on the end, but doesn't feel thick.  But my lips just tingle away.

Moments later, I look to see Dr. Panwalkar hurrying around the corner, stopping short of the large group now gathered around me. Our eyes meet and he mouths to me, "Is this you?" as he points to his pager and then at me.

I nod my head up and down.  The fogginess invades as the Benadryl takes effect.  He then orders more steroids and my nurse quickly draws them and injects them into my line.  

Everyone stands and watches for awhile.

Dr. P wants me to wait until the tingling goes completely away, and then he'll consider having me re-start the last of the dose in the bag.  

Its getting late now, I'm one of the few patients left in the infusion center.  As we sit and wait, most everyone is done with their shift and many leave.  It finally seems that my heart rate is back to normal and my lips no longer tingle.  So we start the drip again.

And somehow, by the sheer grace of God, I finish the last of the Taxol with no more adverse effects.  Its 530 pm and I have been discharged to go home.


I only manage a few hours of sleep, as the steroids have their way with my ability to sleep.  But no matter.  As I crawl out of bed and witness the beauty of a brand new day, while the sturdiness of the ground guides my feet once again, hope washes anew. 


















32 comments:

  1. Oh Vicky, this brings tears to my eyes. Tears of thankfulness for the hope that comes just reading this. God is so amazing. I know He is with you, Vicky. I love your stories and how He's always showing you He is right there. Continued prayers for you and your sweet family.
    Love and hugs to you.

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    1. Nina- He is, so faithfully in our midst, always. It's what helps me through, I don't think I am doing this alone, and I am surrendered to just that. Thankful for your prayers, Nina, always- you and your blessed prayers are in the midst of it all too, friend. Love and hugs to you~

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  2. Once again, I am holding my breath. It touches my heart to read of your sweet friends who are close by to you as you soldier on, and how your wonderful doctor cheers and watches over you. The Lord is near, and He is covering you all with his grace. Prayers continuing as you keep stepping forward.

    I am so proud of you; proud like a mama xxx

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    1. Oh Susan, your words touch me so- thank you. Have been praying for you, and your family- keeping you close in thought too. Much love to you~

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  3. you share, while i hold my breath and tears well up as i read…and the strength that you are so incredibly full of comes pouring out once again…..i am so proud of you!!!

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    1. Thank you, Beth- so sweet of you! Somehow- I get through- by so much that is completely out of my control and sometimes, in situations like this- something kicks in- I don't know what to call it- just grateful to come through :)

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  4. Oh my dear , sweet soul sis,
    Ah.. I just love this. FAITH...the bridge between where you are and where God is taking you, at once solid ground and then a gust of wind. You paint such a viivid picture. It tugs at my heart. Thank you dear Vicky! We know all about that gust of wind and God's grace as we find our footing again.

    And your infusion trip and the challenge of the side effects of a new drug. I'm so glad Dr. P was there to keep a special watch on you, dear one/

    I love some of your life-giving phrases in this post...they make me smile." I have been feeling well"...oh, it makes my heart sing to see you write those words and "hope washes anew."
    More smiles and answers to prayers.

    And to get your card today, and that token, blessed both Bert and me. Pure and simple, I love you Vicky Held Westra! I am so, so grateful to have you in my life!

    Sending hugs loves and prayers to you today!
    Linda

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    1. Yes- the "life-giving" phrases- love that you called them that- it is precisely what they are! And I felt so lucky to use them- they are such gifts to me. I have a list filled with people I long to send a card too, and yours had been waiting- far too long! I pray it simply lifted your spirits and shared the love I feel for you :)

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  5. Beautiful sentiment about faith. You continue to be in my prayers, dear Vicky.

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    1. So grateful to have you, here, Katie and I hope you feel how much those prayers continue to help me keep going.

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  6. Continued prayers that this the warrior that will help you live many more tomorrows.....

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    1. Amen- thank you Karen- for exactly that!

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  7. I had a similar reaction to my second taxotere infusion. It's so comforting to see the team react so competently. I was able to tolerate my other taxotere infusions with no more issues, they just ran it slower. I expect they'll do something similar for you.

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    1. Yes, I know they will be extra cautious, Connie, and I pray I can continue on with it as well- just like you!

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  8. May hope continue to wash and bathe you in the cleanest, brightest light from all that is good and holy.

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    1. Ahhh- so beautifully said, Kass, thank you!

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  9. You are one incredible soul, dear Vicky. I pray for a miracle for you, because you so deserve one.

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    1. Ahhh, Hilary- thank you- you and I are equal in deserving that, friend!

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  10. good news, dearheart! so, does this mean you'll be in infusion weekly on Tuesdays?

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    1. Yes, that is exactly what it means- instead of 1x every 3 weeks, I'll be going in, every week...sigh :) Its an hour long infusion (not bad) with about 30 minutes of pre-meds before- and then prep time- so it'll be a 2- 2 1/2 hour visit each week.

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  11. 'Hope washes Anew"....I will cling to this...as you have. What a journey you are one...can I even begin to imagine? How scary those side affects can be. Vicky my prayer as always is a miracle and more time...an in these moments...holidays were side affects are so few...because I know...you will embrace each moment....you are a treasure. love you (yes this is Peggy )

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    1. Ahhh Peggy- so glad to hear from you! Thankful for your beautiful words and I pray you know how much I think you are a treasure too! Sending you lots of love and positive energy!

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  12. Keep looking at those sunsets, Vicky! I'm seeing them, too. :)

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    1. Ahhh yes, the sunsets too!! Talk with you soon, friend!

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  13. I love so much about this blog. First, the mist over the bridge. We can't see what's beyond the mist, but the bridge looks steady and sure. We can definitely see far enough to take one more step.

    I love hearing about Dr. P. I feel like I know him.

    I love how you finished this treatment--how God was right there with you and is working through the meds, the nurses, your friends, your family.

    And the hope in the last picture just takes my breath away~~~~

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    1. He is, Julie, He truly hasn't left me. And somehow, I feel so surrendered, that I just have a peace in leaving it with Him. I love that I got to see the sunrise the next morning- that I felt good enough to get up and witness the majestic sky :) Love to you, friend!

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  15. I love you I love you I love you!!

    xoxo

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  16. Oh, I've heard of Taxol reactions - NO fun! I'm so glad that it was manageable and you were able to continue the prescribed course of treatment. I naively thought that Taxotere and Taxol were the same drug. I had Taxol for about 6 months, and it was absolutely no fun.

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  17. Vicky, I am SOOOO praying for you and your course of treatment. I'm all done with my chemo - three months done, thank you!

    I am on target thus far and meet with my oncologist every three months as well as having a PET scan a week before. That being said, I don't think we are ever "done" once we have cancer. The appointments maybe fewer and more time between them, but we will always be "checking in" with the medical professionals.

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  18. I think my heart stopped the whole time I read this, Vicky. You are the bravest person I know. Truly. Your willingness to try these things and sheer determination to forge ahead in the face of swaying bridges is beyond heroic. I'm sorry I'm so late reading this. Heading to your new post now with you heavy on my heart and mind. Love you, Vicky.

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I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

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